IRIN Update 636 for 3/24/99

IRIN Update 636 for 3/24/99

U N I T E D N A T I O N S Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa

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IRIN Update No. 636 for Central and Eastern Africa (Wednesday 24 March 1999)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Massacre reports "exaggerated"

Rwanda has dismissed as propaganda reports that its soldiers were involved in an alleged massacre in South Kivu. Reuters news agency cited local residents who arrived in Uvira from Magunga, near Baraka, as saying about 100 Banyamulenge villagers there were killed by Mayi-Mayi warriors "in the pay" of Rwandan soldiers. Rwandan radio said the Kigali government blamed a disaffected faction of the Banyamulenge for the allegations.

Humanitarian sources in Uvira told IRIN today (Wednesday) that while there was a Mayi-Mayi attack on Magunga over the weekend, they believed the reported death toll to be exaggerated. Initial reports indicated that four people had died and dozens of houses were burnt. Reuters, which was unable to verify the massacre reports, quoted residents as claiming the Rwandan soldiers had fallen out with their Banyamulenge allies. The Uvira sources, while acknowledging there were problems between Rwandan and Banyamulenge soldiers in Uvira, told IRIN however it was very unlikely the Rwandans would seek the services of the Mayi-Mayi.

The sources added that the so-called Mayi-Mayi in South Kivu were now largely made up of Rwandan Interahamwe militia and Burundi rebels from the Forces de defense pour la democratie (FDD).

Two killed in mutiny attempt

Reports from Kinshasa indicate an attempted army mutiny took place at a military camp yesterday (Tuesday), staged by recruits who refused to be deployed to the war front. News organisations said two soldiers were killed when army reinforcements were sent to quell the revolt at the camp which adjoins Kinshasa's main airport. AP quoted an aide to President Laurent-Desire Kabila who described the incident as a "misunderstanding" and said recruits were firing into the air "out of excitement at being sent to the front".

Government ready to meet rebels

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, who held talks with Kabila in Kinshasa yesterday, said the DRC president had agreed to involve rebels from the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) in future peace talks. Zambian radio quoted Chiluba as saying this would pave the way for a ceasefire accord. The OAU Council of Ministers, currently meeting in Addis Ababa, yesterday mandated Chiluba to coordinate DRC peace efforts.

DRC Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia, meanwhile, confirmed to the OAU meeting that the government was ready to meet the rebels to "reach an agreement on elections, an electoral law and the constitution," AFP reported. "We shall go to the place which the OAU and other international organisations suggest to meet the others," he was quoted as saying.

IFRC to help refugee-hosting communities

The presence of more than 80,000 Angolan and Congolese refugees in the western province of Bas Congo could have "dire consequences" for both the refugees and the local population, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said yesterday. "Besides the clear vulnerability of the refugees, their presence in marginal, semi-arid villages has put extreme pressure on the coping mechanisms of the local population. We must intervene to help both," IFRC representative Sally Miller was quoted as saying in a statement received by IRIN. Conflicts in Congo-Brazzaville and Angola have caused Bas Congo's refugee population to soar by 40,000 in the past eight weeks alone, the statement said.

Bas-Congo itself was the scene of heavy fighting between August-October 1998. Homes, schools, water supplies, health-care facilities and businesses were damaged or destroyed, while crops were ruined and seeds were looted. In response to the situation, IFRC is planning to expand its operations in the province's refugee-hosting communities. Since February, the IFRC with the local Red Cross has been helping to cover the essential needs of about 9,000 recently-arrived Angolans, mostly women and children, in the town of Songolo until a refugee camp is established for them, the statement added.

RWANDA: Survivors should take part in UN probe

Rwandan survivors say they should take part in a proposed UN investigation into the 1994 genocide, the Rwanda News Agency reported. Anastase Mulumba, secretary-general of the Ibuka survivors' association, said they were best placed to recount what happened. In a letter to the Security Council recently, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed setting up an independent commission of enquiry to probe UN actions during the genocide. Rwandan foreign ministry sources said the government "awaited a positive solution from the UN commission", RNA added.

Popular tribunals to be set up

The Rwandan authorities are to promulgate an organic law establishing popular tribunals, known as "gacaca" in Kinyarwanda, RNA reported. Justice Minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo said the tribunals would operate at four levels - cellule, sector, commune and prefecture. The aim of the courts is to try accused people in the second and third categories of Rwanda's genocide law. Defendants will have the right of appeal to a superior court. The law defines four categories of genocide crimes, with first category defendants accused of planning and executing the genocide.

Three sentenced to death

Meanwhile, three defendants were sentenced to death at a genocide trial of 20 people in the southern city of Butare, Rwandan radio reported. Five others were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Returnees from the DRC

Over 5,000 returnees have recently crossed the DRC border into Gisenyi, WFP said in its latest weekly emergency report. It said the majority of the returnees were women and children. They are staying in the former Busasamana displaced persons camp, waiting to join their home areas. WFP has distributed food to the returnees, the report added.

Meanwhile, humanitarian sources said insecurity as well as poor economic and social conditions in eastern DRC could lead thousands more people, including former supporters of the Interahamwe and ex-FAR, to return to Rwanda in the coming months.

Nairobi, 24 March 1999, 14:00 gmt


Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 17:10:22 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <> Subject: CENTRAL AND EASTERN AFRICA: IRIN Update 636 for 24 March [19990324]

Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D

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